This week, the NFL announced their officiating crew for Super Bowl LVI, which features three Black men. On Thursday morning, there were multiple reports that the Denver Broncos were going to be the first team to fill their head coaching vacancy, as they were finalizing a deal to hire Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett — another white man. Mike Tomlin is still the lone Black head coach in a league that’s 70 percent Black.
When the Super Bowl kicks off in less than three weeks, Ron Torbert will be the man in charge on the field, as he will serve as the referee. He will be joined by umpire Bryan Neale, down judge Derick Bowers, line judge Carl Johnson, field judge Rick Patterson, side judge Keith Washington, back judge Scott Helverson, and replay official Roddy Ames.
Torbert, Johnson, and Washington are all Black, meaning that the Super Bowl will have as many Black officials as there were Black coaches during the 2021 season before Brian Flores was fired in Miami and David Culley was let go after one season in Houston.
Always pay attention to the numbers.
According to FootballZebras.com, “a referee must have at least 5 years of seniority, worked 3 years at the referee position, and worked a playoff game as a referee in a previous postseason. The other members of the Super Bowl crew must have a Conference Championship game on their résumé — or qualified for 3 of the last 5 postseasons — in addition to being at least a 5-year veteran.”
Last year, Sarah Thomas made history as the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. In 2015, she was the first woman to be named a full-time NFL official and was the first to officiate a playoff game in 2019. Super Bowl LV also featured Maral Javadifar and Lori Locust, two women who worked on Tampa Bay’s staff just one Super Bowl after Katie Sowers became the first woman to coach in the Super Bowl as an offensive assistant with the 49ers.
See, progress and diversity are appreciated in the NFL. The league just doesn’t value it when it comes to head coaching, team president, and ownership positions.